My Evening With “Satchmo”…And A Wonderful World

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I must admit I’m struggling a bit tonight. I’ve stumbled across that Minotaur and we’re slugging it out pretty fiercely. But I refuse to yield my optimism or my determination. As I’m sitting here, wrestling with that primeval beast within myself, a song suddenly came to mind and I’ve been playing it over and over and over again.

As I sit here, watching the sun set on a clear, warm, beautiful day in the city, the home, that I love so dearly, I think about the song “What A Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong (nickname “Satchmo”).

The world is a beautiful place…it’s people who can choose to make it ugly. I choose to offer a wonderful world…

There are some times when thinking is not only cumbersome, but interferes with the business of living. Sometimes, we just need to enjoy the act of “being.” Sometimes, we just need to watch the sunset, and listen to a song which speaks of beauty and peace.

If you don’t want to click the link, here are the lyrics:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying “how do you do?”
But they’re really saying “I love you.”

I hear baby’s cry, and I watched them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

“I Am” Is Quite Enough!

Just got back from my chiropractors appointment. Yea, I may be experiencing the onset of arthritis. This, of itself, is a bit of a bummer. But if it’s true, the more ominous thing is that means my autoimmune system is starting to attack the rest of my body again. The consequences of that are anyone’s guess.

I’m committed to being positive and proactive. But news like this fires up my anxiety and I have to work very hard to confront it and ease it back. Anxiety due to neurochemistry or physiology is one thing, but that doesn’t mean I have to nurture and “feed” it. To free myself from the aversion to anxiety, the discomfiture of it, is something I strive for. To free myself from attachments to it, to free myself from being possessed and controlled by anxiety, is something I can certainly do. That doesn’t mean I can make it go away, but I can snub my nose at it and refuse to let it get any deeper “into the castle.” If all I can do is offer defiance, then I offer the best, strongest defiance I can.

I’m finding a new strength and determination. This is largely due to the earnest, gracious support I’ve gotten from this blogging community. You all have helped me more than you know. A stupid little thing, a “like” or brief comment absolutely makes my day and makes me feel like I have 10,000 people behind me. The effect that this has on me is something I can’t fully describe.

I thank you. I’m most grateful to you all.

As I said, I want to be positive and proactive. I want to remain that stubborn, hopelessly optimistic, idealistic, audacious “Theseus” who sits on the mast and challenges God to an accounting. Yes, I’m a Quaker. Yes, I’m a spiritual person. But I’m also the “black sheep” of God’s family and I refuse to be patronized or keep quiet about it!

One of my challenges is that I see all of what could have been, rather than what is. Focusing on what could have been is a poison which ravages the soul and leads to darkness. The attachments to things which “might have been,” take away from manifesting myself in the present of what actually is. What “could have been” is a fantasy, “what is” provides the opportunity to answer the great existential question. There is vital purpose and meaning to “what is.” Dwelling on anything else is a betrayal of my purpose, meaning and very existence: It’s a contemptuous refuting of that existence. There’s value in what is. There’s meaning in what is. For whatever reason, there’s a very valid purpose to what is.

Desiring or craving “what could have been” is only a half step from what I wanted, but never could have. This will deaden one’s soul.

I want to be an all pro quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, guiding my beloved home and team to 10 Superbowl rings. Ain’t gonna happen.

I want to be Paul McCartney or Tony Banks (from the music group “Genesis”). Guess what? Ain’t gonna happen.

But why is it so terrible to be who and what I am? If I’m always focused on who and what I’m not, I’ll never understands what it means to be all that I actually am. I am a father. I am a husband. I (am coming to believe) that I’m some sort of writer who supports and encourages people all over the world, none of whom I’ve ever met. These things are a sacred trust. Why do I cast them aside so flippantly? How can I be so callous and dead to all that I am? There is value and meaning and purpose in being who I am. Even in pain and suffering, I say there is value…and meaning…and purpose to it all. Why do I discard my appointed task and path?

I am who I am, as I am, for a purpose – a very valid purpose. An essential purpose and reason.

I’m not here as an accident or mistake, and neither are you! We live in the perfection of who we are. To deny or ignore this is nothing less than sacrilege. We live in the perfection of who we are…and we are that perfection in living as we are.

I became physically ill because of the effects of CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). This is my path and my challenge to confront. Come what may, I accept this challenge and defy anything and everything blocking my path. From the deepest crevasse and the darkest places, I cry out defiantly:

I…simply…am.

I wish you all strength, and courage, audacious determination, and as always…

Be (Most) Well, My Friends
Your Friend, Theseus!

Is My Body Attacking My Body Again? I’m Quite An Income Stream.

I’m going to see my chiropractor this morning, so I’m going to mention the pain I’ve been experiencing in my knuckles. It’s been going on for a couple of months and I’m hoping it’s just that I’m getting older and am more sensitive to the weather. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to know, however. For a number of reasons, my immune system started attacking different systems in my body and this lead to not just the problems with my thyroid, but other issues as well. Because I’ve been ill for so long and so many different things have happened, I dread getting my joints checked out. I don’t know about others, but with my being chronically ill, every time I get some ache or pain, there’s a part of me that assumes some new illness or problem has started: I’m always paranoid that something else is going wrong.

I don’t want to get into a whole discussion about health care and politics. There’s just too much contentiousness and conflict out there and, quite frankly, I have plenty of issues in my own life to deal with without getting into arguments with other people. What I can say speaks to my own experience, not vague scenarios. Originally, I had a good job. The insurance I had with the company was the best in the state and my wife and I bought into the highest level of coverage available (because we were anticipating our son’s birth). Since then, my son got sick, I continue to be sick, I haven’t been able to work in many years and all the retirement, savings and credit we once had was wiped out more than 10 years ago. I never minded paying my fair share. I don’t even mind paying more than my fair share if that would help others in more dire circumstances. The problem is that I’ve become nothing more than an income stream.

When my son and I both started getting sick, we were both misdiagnosed. Fortunately, we kept going to different doctors and hospitals until we found out what was going on and what we could do about it. For me, it took longer. I started getting ill in 1998 and it wasn’t until 2011 that I finally found someone who accurately diagnosed what was going on and knew what to do about it.

After I had lost my tech job, I tried to work somewhere, at something. The only work I could get, even as I continued to be misdiagnosed and my health increasingly declined, was part time work at a minimum wage job. I took it just to continue working and contribute. I made $ 200 a week, before taxes. The insurance from that job didn’t even cover the $ 300 of medications I was being prescribed at the time. Years later I came to find that not only were the medications not helpful, but they contributed to my health problems getting worse. Even today, the helpful supplementation which my chiropractor prescribes – and which actually work – aren’t covered, so they remain out of pocket costs. I can’t even get a renewal of my synthroid medication without having to go in to an medical doctors office and pay for a visit. I don’t take any controlled substances. The dosage rarely changes (and not by much). I don’t even have to get blood-work done. The doctor comes in a and says “you need a refill.” I say “yes.” The doctor goes to her lap top and clicks a button. Then says “okay, it’s waiting for you at the pharmacy.”

The frustrating thing is that I’ve never asked for something for nothing. Before I got sick I worked hard and played by the rules. I did all the things I was supposed too and didn’t expect hand outs or freebee’s. I actually could have gotten my college tuition from my grandparents, but felt at the time that it wasn’t their place to do what my parents were supposed to do in the first place. So I worked and paid my own way without asking for anything from anyone.

The frustrating thing is that I have nothing to show for any of it.

The frustrating thing is that when I did get sick, no one believed it. I was told I was just lazy or misdiagnosed with depression. (depression certainly is valid, but it’s just not something I struggle with personally).

The frustrating thing is that the only thing I’m valued for at this point is a continued income stream.

The frustrating thing is that now that I am sick, no one want’s what I can offer and I’m only viewed as a “preexisting condition.”

As I said before, I hope my joints hurt because I’m just getting older and the weather effects them. I don’t need another illness to contend with.

Sorry for the bummer entry. I’ll be okay, it just is what it is.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Return To Sender – A Technique I Totally Forgot About

I just got back from my therapy appointment. We’ve been utilizing EMDR methods (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing) to try and more directly address the emotional challenges and wounds I’ve been struggling with. During the session, my therapist reminded me of a technique which I had been using about a year ago, but then, for various reasons, forgot about.

The basics of it had to do with the fact that the emotional pain I’m experiencing isn’t something I deserve and is basically not mine to own. As such, she suggested (and I agree) that since it’s not mine, I need to meditate on and be proactive about returning it from where it came. This isn’t something to be done physically, but is an awareness or mantra which I acknowledge and tell myself. Whenever I’m experiencing this pain, I need to be aware of it, and then purposefully send it back out to each person who inflicted and imposed it on me.

While this may sound like a bit of a cute trick, it’s an important way of perceiving and handling this pain. The truth is that I don’t deserve it and didn’t do anything to deserve it. By repetition and malice, my parents and their families, as well as others I’ve encountered in my life, have placed guilt, shame, depression, deep sadness, self loathing and many other things within me. They’ve saddled me with these things. They’ve beaten my down to the point that I took these things on to carry. In part, it was an excuse for me to carry things which they didn’t want to look at or carry themselves…so they did everything they could to make me carry them. But there’s a strange thing about pain and suffering. You can’t free yourself from these things by forcing them on another, you can only infect others with the same pain and suffering you refuse to face, deal with or process. When I lived in contact with my parents in their families, I learned how to do this to them as they did it to me – but I always felt that there was something wrong and unhelpful about it. I never fully accepted it and have sought all my life for a healthy way to free myself without causing harm or pain to others.

Another quick thing is that another reason why my parents and their families did this is that they believed it was normal and appropriate to make other people feel as bad, if no worse, that they did. This is the whole “kicking the dog” thing.

In any case, I lit up when my therapist reminded me of this. There’s something about meditating and being mindful of the fact that the pain I’m carrying isn’t mine to own and that it needs to be mindfully, deliberately, proactively rejected as being false and then being returned to the sender of it.

(Note that as with all techniques and therapies, there is no “magic pill.” It takes time and effort to see if anything is effective and I’m going to have to account for enough time and effort to see how effective this could be)

Now I have an odd sense of humor. When my therapist helped me remember and start to re-implement this, all I could think of was Elvis Presley singing “Return To Sender.” The lyrics don’t apply to the point I’m making, but the chorus keeps ringing in my head every time I feel the twinge of that pain. In my mind, I see me as Elvis in the song and video! (lol)

I also felt better after the therapy and another thought came to mind. I greatly respect the “coolness” which is Denzel Washington. Man, I wish I could be more like him sometimes. In the future, I want to make use of his style of confrontation when dealing with whatever challenges appear. The therapy helped so much, I could see myself talking to those negative, anxious, painful parts of myself like Mr. Washington did in the movies “Remember The Titans” and “Gangster.” Obviously, therapy helped revive a bit of my determination and fire. I’m grateful for that!

I realize that I’ve only been granted a temporary reprieve and not a release from all those inner struggles…but I’ll take ‘um as I can get ‘um.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Influencing Circumstances To Be At Peace…But My Brain Still Hurts

With CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder), I have more intense emotional reactions to things and at the same time it’s more difficult for me to process any emotional reactions. This is due to the changes in the brain which occur to people who experience trauma. I don’t know the whole of it, but things like the limbic system are physically altered by trauma. Because of this, I need to keep myself in situations and circumstances which are as calm and peaceful as possible. In life, this isn’t always possible of course. But at the same time, I don’t have to contribute to my difficulties by choosing to get into situations (or circumstances) which are, for me, provocative and stressful.

Last night, I watched a bit of news. Ordinarily, I avoid this because I find it all so upsetting. When watching the news I sometimes wonder if anything positive ever happens! Why is the negative stuff so over reported? Anyway, the reason I do watch sometimes is to have a general idea about what’s going on in the wider world. I’m not a political person, but I do vote in every election, major or minor. I’ve also had long discussions with my son about the importance of thinking about what’s going on in the world and how important voting is. It’s because of these things that I sometimes grit my teeth and turn on the news.

This caused problems for me this morning. I already have anxiety as a common companion. But the things I saw last night really made my anxieties spike about the present direction and the future which seems to be fast approaching. The most difficult thing, though, were the negative thoughts which started arising, even before I was fully awake. Most times, I bring negative thinking into conscious awareness and challenge them while maintaining a sense of mindfulness. However, it’s really rather annoying when I’m not even fully awake and the negativity starts flowing. At that time of the morning, I don’t want to be conscious or mindful of anything. After my morning coffee, fine, bring it on. But I don’t want to wrestle with that stuff when I’m “in between worlds.” Just a pain.

I avoid certain things like watching the news because I know the effect it will have on me. The circumstance with my wife where I had to set boundaries and limits with her was much more difficult. It caused innumerable problems in our relationship for many, many years and has left scars which still haven’t healed. This was something that was very stressful, but I wasn’t able to fully influence. It was very difficult and ended up invoking emotions and issues which re-traumatized me to the point where even now, 2 years later, I’m still trying to dig myself out of that hole.

But there is another type of stress as well. We live in a townhouse complex in the Philadelphia suburbs. One of the challenges of living here is that parking can be a bit difficult. Every unit is assigned 2 spaces, but some of the folks living in the neighborhood – who are all very nice people – will sometimes have 3 or 4, even 5 cars which take up the spaces. There are also times when some of these folks will park in one of our spots. Any time this happens, I fall into a rage which I can barely contain.

Now of course this is ridiculous. With all the things going on in the world and all the other difficulties (like health issues) I struggle with, who the hell cares where anyone parks!? It’s such a small, insignificant thing, especially knowing that all of our neighbors are very nice, reasonable people? But this is the challenge. When these things happen, it feels very invalidating and disrespectful. It triggers a lot of past experiences when others went out of their way to deliberately do things like this, just to get me angry. When the larger, more important things in life are constantly, deliberately violated, one becomes more inclined to overreact to any perceived slight – so, some very small things can invoke intense, vitriolic reactions.

So I have more intense reactions, am less able to process them or “self sooth” and am overly sensitive to being invalidated or slighted, even when such things are not intended. This makes daily living very difficult at times. Because of watching the news last night, it’s going to take me a day or two to calm myself down and find some semblance of peace. The problem is that the anxieties, negative thoughts and painful emotions aren’t things which can be turned off like a switch. The ebb and flow from lessor to greater intensities. Once these things have momentum and power, it takes a lot of time and a great deal of effort for me to ease them back down to as manageable level as I’m capable of.

There is a positive side to all this, though. Part of it is that I’m more able to empathize with the pain of others and I understand the value of compassion. It also means that my intense reactions can also be of joy or happiness. The negative things are always in the background. However, because of the structural deformities of my brain, I’m able to, perhaps, more deeply understand and appreciate the joys and happiness of others, with others, for others. That, is a good thing.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

(P.S. Just for fun…Know that when this stuff happens, it hurts my brain)

A Mistake And Apology: The Pain We Cause Others By Accident

I didn’t want to write anything else today, but I may have inadvertently caused someone even more pain that they were already struggling with. I had to say something.

While waiting for my son, I was trying to read other blogs and make some supportive comments. By accident, I posted a response from one person’s blog into the comments of another. If it had been a rather benign topic, I wouldn’t have worried about it. Unfortunately, the incorrect pasting dealt with a very intense, difficult topic. I’m very upset that I may have caused another person more pain.

One thing I hate almost more than anything else is to cause another person pain. Of course, I struggle myself, but it’s for just that reason that I so loath inflicting it (even unintentionally) on others.

There are 2 times in my life when I deliberately, maliciously caused a great deal of pain to another human being. I was in the early part of grade school and couldn’t have been older than 8 or 9 in both cases. Fortunately, I was held accountable in both cases and witnessed, first hand, the effect of what I had done. It may sound ridiculous, but I’m still haunted by these two incidents. At 50, I’m still deeply troubled by what I had done then and the result is that I became passionately defensive in support of anyone whom I feel is being treated unfairly or abused. I regret the way I came to learn this lesson, but I’m grateful that I did, in fact, learn it.

But in life, even when unintended, there are times when we cause hurt and pain to others. I writhe when I do. My very soul howls in agony and despair. This too, may sound ridiculous…but I know what it’s like to be hurt, really hurt, and I wish to ease the tribulations and pain of others, not be a source of it.

Respecting the comment on the other person’s blog, I immediately realized my mistake and sent an immediate apology. But I’m just a complete wreck right now.

My point is that I don’t want to cause hurt or cause pain to anyone, intentionally or unintentionally. There’s too much anger and hate in the world right now. I really don’t want to contribute to it in any way. I know that being the source of someone elses pain can’t always be avoided, but I’m deeply disturbed when I am that source.

I strive to be a source of healing and peace to others. I strive to live as a better example of who I am.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus

Cortisol And Dr. Who

The fatigue just hit me about an hour ago. This is a challenge, because it makes everything else heavier to carry. It also inclines me towards all the negative: thoughts, anxieties, hopelessness, irritability and more. Many years ago, all the doctors I went to assumed the fatigue was due to depression…but no one bothered to do any blood-work to rule out other causes. (Let me just say that taking anti-depression medication when your not depressed not only doesn’t help anything, but adds more problems). When I finally found a doctor who understood what was going on, she found, with blood-work and hormone testing, that the reason for my bouts of fatigue were due to a low Cortisol level. My adrenal glands were not functioning properly and this was (and remains) the cause of my fatigue as well as struggles with insomnia (at night).

I have to take credit here. I haven’t been following the prescribed diet or supplementation that I’m supposed to. Trouble is that it takes 6 months to a year for things to really kick in and take effect. Basically, the only way to better health is to help my body to heal itself. There is no magic pill. The difficulties 2 years ago not only reignited many of my past stressors and troubles, but it got me off track with the regimen my doctor set up for me. I’m not looking forward to waiting 6 months or a year for my symptoms to improve. But the big challenge isn’t diet, exercise and the medications, it’s the residue of what happened back in 2014. A lot of things got triggered. There were consequences of what happened which I’m still struggling with now. I have to get over that first, before I can expect to get back in the rhythm of the diet and supplementation. If I’m in intense pain and don’t care, why should I bother with the rest.

I’m trying to do some things, resting when I need to. On my last break, I was wondering what the point is and why I’ve had the (continued) experiences that I’ve had. I wondered why I was here.

Interestingly, I was watching Dr Who and this quote came up:

Dr Who, “The Pandoric Opens”

RORY: But I don’t understand. Why am I here?

THE DOCTOR: Because you are.

Believe it or not, that actually made sense to me!

Just doing what I can. We’ll have to see how it all plays out today.

Be Well, My Friends
Theseus